The Walker Expedition

Historical Marker #903 in Johnson County commemorates Dr. Thomas Walker and his first expedition through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. While on this expedition, Dr. Walker and his companions camped at present-day Paintsville in 1750.

Thomas Walker was born in Virginia on January 25, 1715. Walker became a physician and land speculator for the Loyal Land Company in Fredericksburg, Virginia. When the land company received a grant from Virginia, Dr. Walker organized and led the first exploration of this land in 1750.

Walker and his group entered Kentucky through Cumberland Gap, naming it and the Cumberland River after the Duke of Cumberland. In June, the men crossed Big Paint Creek, near Paintsville. It was here that heavy rains and fallen timber made their path impassable, forcing the men to camp in Johnson County.

On June 7, once it became possible to cross the creek, the party continued on to the main fork of the Big Sandy River, which they named Louisa in honor of the sister of the Duke of Cumberland.

Walker returned to Virginia in July 1750. He served several terms in the Virginia House of Burgesses and remained an agent of the Loyal Land Company until 1775. Walker was a close friend of the Washington and Madison families of Virginia, and even served as Thomas Jefferson's guardian for a short time. In 1768, Walker became commissioner to a congress of the Six Nations of the Iroquois. He also surveyed the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina west to the Tennessee River in 1779-80.

Dr. Thomas Walker died November 9, 1794.

Images

The Cumberland Gap

The Cumberland Gap

On expedition to survey land for the Loyal Land Company of Virginia, Dr. Thomas Walker traveled through the Cumberland Gap, naming it so in honor of the Duke of Cumberland. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

The Big Sandy River

The Big Sandy River

Dr. Thomas Walker utilized the Big Sandy River to explore the wilderness of Kentucky for the Loyal Land Company. Dr. Walker named the largest fork of the river after the Duke of Cumberland's sister, Louisa. Today, the name has evolved into Levisa Fork. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

The Cumberland River

The Cumberland River

Like the Cumberland Gap, the Cumberland River was named in honor of the Duke of Cumberland by Dr. Thomas Walker's team of explorers on the first exploration of eastern Kentucky in 1750. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Castle Hill Estate

Castle Hill Estate

Dr. Thomas Walker had this home constructed in Virginia ca. 1764. Walker lived in the estate until his death in 1794. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

McKenzie Martin, “The Walker Expedition,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 25, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/361.

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